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July 30, 2007

Denver to Vail Monorail

A reader sent me a link to a site asking the question--would you favor a Denver to Vail monorail:

This is what we need from Denver to Vail (With a stop in Summit of course). I just drove down from another mountain excursion this morning and while I was blown away as always by the view, I couldn’t help but think how nice it would be to have been sitting and reading my paper while making the journey.

And this was a beautiful uncrowded day. But when I went up on Sunday I-70 was PACKED with cars heading down. Nothing compared to the ski season but certainly another reason to get on a train.

Just picture this. You head over to Union Station and grab a nice warm cup of coffee, a newspaper or book, and some of your best buds. You load all of your stuff onto your train car and grab a wonderful cabin with benches and curl up. The snow outside is dumping and the weather is freezing. The roads are going to be icy, if open at all. But you will make the trip to Vail in bliss surrounded by laughter, warmth and friends.

When you are hungry or thirsty you eat and drink. When you have to use the bathroom you do (but leave your cabin for this). When you are tired you sleep. You are safe.

Two things. It would have to start in West Kansas (as in the Denver Airport). Second, how viable would it be?

I believe that it would be an absolute boon for Denver's tourism industry and for the entire Colorado ski industry. Direct flight to a train to Vail. Luxury all the way. Fewer private jets into snowy airports.

The downside (and the above are a huge upside) is cost. Given the track record of Denver implementing large scale transportation projects, I would really hessitate to propose something truly innovative that the government can royally screw up as opposed to something relatively simple like building more auto lanes on I-70 that the government has a proven track record of doing for the last 100 years. (Imagine Boston voters asked retroactively to approve the Big Dig when shown the actual cost as opposed to the projected cost):

Delays caused by poor planning and repeated design changes due to changing requirements from United Airlines caused Mayor Webb to push opening day back, first to December 1993, then to March 1994. By September 1993, delays due to a millwright strike and other events meant opening day was pushed back again, to May 15, 1994. This earned the airport the tongue-in-cheek nicknames "Done In April," "Done In August," "Delayed Indefinitely Airport" or "Denver's Imaginary Airport" using the DIA initials.

In April 1994, the city invited reporters to observe the first test of the new automated baggage system. Reporters were treated to scenes of clothing and other personal effects scattered beneath the system's tracks, while the actuators that moved luggage from belt to belt would often toss the luggage right off the system instead. The mayor cancelled the planned May 15 opening. The baggage system continued to be a maintenance hassle and was finally terminated in September 2005 [7], with traditional baggage handlers manually handling cargo and passenger luggage.

On September 25, 1994, the airport hosted a fly-in that drew several hundred general aviation aircraft, providing pilots with a unique opportunity to operate in and out of the new airport, and to wander around on foot looking at the ground-side facilities—including the baggage system, which was still under testing. FAA controllers also took advantage of the event to test procedures, and to check for holes in radio coverage as planes taxied around and among the buildings.

DIA finally replaced Stapleton on February 28, 1995, 16 months behind schedule and at a cost of $5.2 billion, nearly $2 billion over budget.

If the project were privately funded and for profit and someone could make a business case that it would pay for itself or be worth the investment, I would be all for it. I would use it. But how much of a tax burden would the entire state be saddled with to pay for a project that just benefits skiers?

Posted by Justin at July 30, 2007 03:47 PM


Privately funded- you bring up an interesting point. A company like vail resorts should be able to start the project from keystone to Avon- since they are building a "transit center" there, which at the moment is nothing more than a lift and a garage- and the Westin. Couldn't the popularity of use between resorts impact the planning of extensions to Denver and/or other ski areas?

Posted by: Caroline Blaker at August 2, 2007 03:31 PM